Ohio Democrat explains pro-choice shift

Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan could be gearing up for a Senate run.

Story highlights

  • Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan came out as pro-choice in an op-ed published on Tuesday
  • After running on an anti-abortion platform in 2002, he's shifted leftward over the years
  • He dismissed speculation his shift was in preparation for a potential Senate bid

Washington (CNN)Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan fully reversed his anti-abortion position and came out as pro-choice in an op-ed published on Tuesday.

"I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal," Ryan wrote in the Akron Beacon Journal.
    "I have come to believe that we must trust women and families — not politicians — to make the best decision for their lives," he said.
    After running for Congress on a pro-life platform in 2002 and initially voting with Republicans on the issue, Ryan, who is Catholic, has shifted leftward on abortion. In recent years, he's drawn criticism from pro-life activists that once supported him for voting to protect public funding for Planned Parenthood and access to contraception.
    Ryan wrote in the op-ed that his shift was inspired by conversations with women during his political career, but the move also puts him in a better position politically as he contemplates a potential 2016 challenge to Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican.
    Ryan told Roll Call that "we're certainly looking very closely at" a Senate run.
    And while he's won re-election to his heavily Democratic district with comfortable margins nearly every cycle since 2002, Ryan's pro-life stance could have been an obstacle for him in a Democratic Senate primary in the swing state.
    Indeed, Portman himself has shifted on a key social issue since he was elected in 2010 with Tea Party support. He came out in favor of gay marriage in 2013, also in a newspaper op-ed, citing his experience with his gay son as partial inspiration for the shift.
    Ryan, however, dismissed speculation that his change of heart was politically motivated.
    "I realize that people can be cynical about politics and think this is something tied to a Senate aspiration," Ryan told the Plain Dealer. "The reality is, this is just where my heart is right now. I want to be clear about that. I would be abandoning my own conscience and my own judgment if I somehow led people to believe I was supporting a position I no longer thought was the appropriate position to have."